Sutton Coldfield dad named Aston Villa’s most obsessed fan
Dec 7 2009 by Vicky Farncombe, Sunday Mercury
POOR Joanne Goodwin is the Midland’s most long-suffering football widow.
Because husband Mark is such a committed Aston Villa fan that he has only missed one game, home and away, in THIRTY YEARS.
Weddings, deaths and family holidays – nothing stands in the way of his love for the boys in claret and blue.
The 49-year-old even left his best friend’s nuptials half-way through the ceremony so as not to miss a match.
Dad-of-two Mark, from Sutton Coldfield, said: “My mother-in-law died last year and Villa were playing the next day. I thought I’d have to miss the game but the wife let me go. She’s very understanding.
‘‘I’ve missed countless birthdays, Valentine Days and weddings over the years – but she’s used to it.”
On two occasions family holidays have also been cut short by unexpected football fixtures.
Last August self-employed design engineer Mark whisked away Joanne and their children Glen, 18, and 14-year-old Hannah for a holiday to Portugal.
But when he found out Villa’s UEFA Cup clash with Icelandic team FH Hafnarfjardar had been brought forward to coincide with the end of the trip, he rushed to an internet cafe to book his flights.
“I was back in Brum by 9pm,” said Mark. “I went home to bed and was picked up at 6.30am the next day to get my flight to Iceland.
“I dreaded telling Joanne but she was alright about it. I do buy her flowers every now and then!”
Such commitment does come at a price though, as Mark reckons he spends at least £5,000-a-year following his beloved team. His blue Lexus also bears the number plate Villa MG, his study is painted claret with a blue carpet and he has collected every match programme since Villa won the league in 1981.
It all started in 1971 when his dad David, who was born in Aston, took him to his first game – Villa v Swansea, a Third Division clash.
“I was seven and couldn’t believe how big the Holte End was,” recalled Mark. ‘‘I thought it was amazing and then Villa won 3-0. That was it, I was hooked.”
By the time he was 18, Mark had his first season ticket and was going to every home and away game.
The one black spot on his impeccable attendance record is Villa’s 1990 UEFA Cup tie with Banik Ostrava. “I’d just been to see England in the World Cup and I was skint,” he said.
Civil servant wife Joanne, 49, met Mark at a party in Birmingham in 1984 and came to terms with his soccer obsession years ago.
“It’s quite annoying having to arrange everything round the fixtures but I’m easy going and used to it now,” she said.
‘‘Mark was like it when I met him, so it doesn’t bother me now.
“If he’s mad enough to do it then fine, and as long as the kids and I don’t go without I’m happy.’’
Mark’s dedication came to light after he was among 1,000 fans polled by MBNA, the largest provider of football credit cards, to reveal the lengths people go to for their team.
It also found:
* The average fan in the Midlands lives 77 miles from their soccer club;
* One in three supporters have missed a significant family occasion to attend a match – with two per cent skipping the birth of their child;
* Eight per cent of Midland fans name their pets after their team or star players;
* And Midlanders are the most likely to have a tattoo honouring their club.
I have been disturbed a few months ago when watching a Sky Sports ad at the beginning of the season showing the fanatical nature of the ‘footie’ fans over here. You hear of people travelling miles on end and spending an absolute fortune on their favourite team.
But reading this article – without being judgemental on the bloke, he is a villain after all – it made me wonder:
- What is the legacy I am leaving behind?
- Do I live with utter passion for something?
- Is my investment something that has eternal value?